TRASK ON BASQUE.

Larry Trask, who made a prior Languagehat appearance in this entry, has a useful Basque page, prefaced with the following pointed caveat:

But please note: I do not want to hear about the following:
Your latest proof that Basque is related to Iberian / Etruscan / Pictish / Sumerian / Minoan / Tibetan / Isthmus Zapotec / Martian
Your discovery that Basque is the secret key to understanding the Ogam inscriptions / the Phaistos disc / the Easter Island carvings / the Egyptian Book of the Dead / the Qabbala / the prophecies of Nostradamus / your PC manual / the movements of the New York Stock Exchange
Your belief that Basque is the ancestral language of all humankind / a remnant of the speech of lost Atlantis / the language of the vanished civilization of Antarctica / evidence of visitors from Proxima Centauri

(Thanks to Vidiot for the link.)
Addendum. Thanks to Pat of fieldmethods.net for this excellent interview with Trask; I was sad to read at the end: “Illness has robbed him of his voice, so that this interview had to be conducted entirely by email.”

Comments

  1. After looking at Trask I just googled around on “bizarre”, which a Spanish dictionary told me long ago was a Basque word originally. And found your site.
    It’s still very interesting that bizarro in Spanish or Portuguese means “brave, noble, elegant” etc., very far from the English meaning. The Spanish Armada must be at fault.

  2. Trask is one of my favorite authors, as far as linguistics goes. I never hesitate to recommend A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics, which is full of even-handed discussions of more linguistic terms than Panini could peruse.
    His A Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology is equally useful, if a bit more erudite. But then, isn’t everybody interested in knowing what diplophonia, anthropophonics, and pneumotachographs are?

  3. Well, I certainly am! Thanks for the recommendations.

  4. Trask’s exasperated posts against pseudo-linguistic numbskullery on the sadly defunct Indo-European list are missed. Oh, well.

  5. Oh, and I just ran across this nice interview with Trask in the Guardian. It turns out that he himself is an interesting character: he was born in Appalachia, but has lived in England since the seventies. And it’s *really* fun to hear him tear into Chomsky.
    But then, doesn’t everybody want to tear into Chomsky?

  6. He left out the Voynich ms.

  7. good point 🙂

  8. Hmmph, I sent you this link–pointing out that very quote–some months ago. *sulks*

  9. Damn — sorry, Karl! I must have been in a fugue state. See, that’s why I needed a vacation.

  10. Chomsky! Mmmmmm-mmmm. Nothing like a nice piece of Chomsky between two slices of rye.
    I don’t know what “pneumotachographs” is, but it’s immediately become one of my favorite-sounding words.
    Oh, and Hi Pat!

  11. Moira!
    What’s up you!
    Mr Hat, you may be interested to know that I have known Moira since blogging was but wee.
    Sorry for playing tag in your comments. 8^)

  12. No, no, I think of my comments as a cafe where people can chat about whatever they like, and I’m delighted to discover that two of my favorite bloggers are old acquaintances!

  13. I’m sad to report that Professor Trask died on Saturday, after a long illness. A real tragedy. Certainly he was one of my own favourite linguists, although I admit I’ve yet to read any of his more substantial works.

  14. Damn. I’m very sorry to hear that; he was one of mine as well.

  15. Trask made a career on the premise that the origins of the basques and their language can Never be known. Not to mention his assertion that the basque language is so unique that it has nothing in common with other lanugages.He even claims in his FAQ that nobody knows where the basques came from; turns out that paleoanthropologists have traced the basques to the middle east.The closest to the basques[both linguistically AND genetically] are the Hunza of Pakistan.I also wonder what the likelyhood that the basque word for water : Ur is a loneword from sumerian.

  16. Luis Martins says:

    Rest in Peace.

  17. The possibility of Larry Trask hearing about that Basque is related to such as Pictish no longer exists now, and thank God.

  18. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    I don’t want Larry Trask to be rolling over in his grave, but I came across this abstract by Juliette Blevins of CUNY claiming that (Proto-)Basque and Proto-Indo-European are related. I can’t find anything published on it, only talk abstracts and notes by a participant. Does anybody know anything about it?

  19. Trond Engen says:

    It’s from the Oslo conference in 2013. It’s not in the Selected Papers.

    It’s very intriguing, but I’d have thought she’d have been busy expanding on it if there was any progress to make. OTOH, she has research interests and projects all over the map.

  20. Stephen C. Carlson: I doubt Trask is rolling in his grave. In his writings on Basque he bemoaned the fact that scholarship attempting to related Basque to other languages was as a rule done by people who knew little and cared less about the diachronic phonology of Basque. Whether Juliette Blevins is right or wrong, her theory (if her abstract and the notes are anything to go by) is based on a close engagement with scholarship on the history of Basque.

  21. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    Thanks for your comments. It didn’t seem to have the usual red flags of crankdom for me, except of course the ultimate claim of relating Basque to anything else. It looks like she’s still working on it. There was a talk at Harvard last year.

    I also found online the recent thesis of her Ph.D.student on Basque historical phonology on academia. Presumably some of that research is feeding into her work.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    The abstract and the notes do sound intriguing, but internal reconstruction always has the problem that it has infinite degrees of freedom at one end. I also expect a lot of very old borrowings in both directions. I’ll read the thesis.

  23. David Marjanović says:

    I’m only 38 pages in, and the thesis already contains surprises. Most kinds of Basque assign stress to the second-to-last or the second syllable of a word or stem by default, some prefer the end of a phrase almost like French, but there’s one group of dialects that has a system which works like that of Standard/Tokyo Japanese.

  24. Fascinating! Where is that group located?

  25. David Marjanović says:

    Only given as “Northern Bizkaia”; but a few place names are mentioned, of which I recognize Guernica.

    Also, I mixed things up: this is the same system that has phrase-final stress, namely on unaccented words. “In this system, the accent is assigned morphologically. There is a lexical distinction between accented and unaccented words. Unaccented words are formed by the combination of unaccented morphemes. Most native stems and singular affixes are unaccented. When combined with unaccented morphemes, the accent surfaces phrase-finally when these words precede the verb or when they are produced in isolation (3.7a). When unaccented words do not precede the verb, they do not have accent (3.7b) […]. Accented words have at least one accented morpheme, which can be either the stem or an affix. Compounds and plural inflectional suffixes are accented, as well as most derived words and loanwords.” (p. 32) – According to the given examples, those suffixes are preaccenting: the accent surfaces not on them, but on the syllable that precedes them.

    As in, specifically, Tokyo, the first syllable of a “phrase” has low pitch, and all following ones have high pitch till the accent comes or the “phrase” is over. Syllables after the accent have low pitch again.

    Having explained the three regional accent systems and all attempts to explain how they developed, Egurtzegi suddenly mentions (p. 54 onwards) that there’s a fourth system, found “in the south-western High Navarrese variety of Goizueta”. This, unlike Japanese, is classical pitch accent: every word has a stressed syllable which has either high or low pitch relative to its surroundings. There are minimal pairs like gizónari “to the man” vs. gizònari “to the men”. Low pitch is basically found in the same words that are accented in the North Bizkaian system, so the plot thickens.

  26. David Marjanović says:

    Finished. One of the cited sources is this delightful book from 1729:

    EL IMPOSSIBLE VENCIDO.
    ARTE
    DE LA LENGUA
    BASCONGADA.

    The text begins after a long list of dedications and permissions to print:

    HASTA aora han tenido por impoſsible reducir à methodo, y reglas el Baſcuenze, no ſolo los ignorantes, ſino tam bien los doctos, no ſolo los estraños, ſino tambien los proprios: y aun el dia de oy ay mil incredulos, que juzgan, que Arte, y del Baſcuenze son terminos implicatorios, mas de los del hircocervo.

  27. Delightful indeed!

  28. David Marjanović says:

    15-minute video explaining the basics of how Japanese accentuation works.

  29. David Marjanović says:

    The text begins after a long list of dedications and permissions to print:

    And, I should have mentioned, a thorough and hilarious explanation of just how fucking awesome the Noble and Loyal Province of Guipúzcoa is. (Basque continues to be spoken there today.) You have three guesses about where the author came from, and the first two don’t count.

  30. Do I get it right that Manuel de Larramendi compares Basque to an elk?

  31. David Marjanović says:

    I don’t know. Boselaphus tragocamelus comes to mind…

  32. DLE says LL hircocervus = Sp alce¹ = Sv älg (denotationally), but Sp hircocervo is some sort of chimera. Seems people in 18th century Spain didn’t believe in elks and Larramendi was saying that doubters considered learned treatment of Basque to be just as impossible.

    (And why the Late Latinos would think that the elk is the cervine most like unto a billygoat I am not sure at all).

    What luck that elks do in fact exist!

  33. David Marjanović says:

    just as impossible

    Just as contradictory in terms.

  34. I wouldn’t believe in moose (= European elk) either if I hadn’t seen them.

    Some Americans took their Scottish relative to the zoo, and after showing him the moose, he said, “If that’s your moose, I dinna want to see your rats!”

  35. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    It’s been about two and half years since I had noticed Blevins’s talk on PIE and Proto-Basque. Is it too soon to assume that nothing will in fact pan out from the idea?

  36. David Marjanović says:

    The abstract of that talk appears to have been the last update to Blevins’s homepage. No publications are listed since 2015, except for four “to appear” which aren’t about Basque.

    The youngest paper on Egurtzegi’s Academia page is from last year, but it’s a small part of his thesis.

  37. There’s a new book chapter, Basque and the reconstruction of isolated languages, by Lakarra. I haven’t looked at it yet. It makes passing (unfavorable) references to Blevins’s work.

  38. David Marjanović says:

    unfavorable

    Egurtzegi’s thesis must have been fun: Lakarra and Blevins were his supervisors.

  39. David Marjanović says:

    In the process, Lakarra misquotes (footnote 21) Blevins’s Ongan-Austronesian hypothesis (after the Onge people of the southern Andamans) as “Tongan-Austronesian”… and the paragraph on “Macrocomparison” contains a few head-scratchers.

  40. David Eddyshaw says:

    Quotha:

    Comparison is of no scientific interest except when, undertaken in strict conditions, its objective is to illuminate the structure of the languages under study and the changes produced within them, especially irregularities, exceptions, fases sparitas, stages with little or no documentation, impossible or difficult to investigate in the language (or dialect) itself.

    It’s one thing to say (rightly) that comparative work is unlikely to be sound if it doesn’t in fact illuminate the structure of the languages under study; quite another (and false) to imply that it has no other scientific interest. Particularly false to imply that one is not even engaged in true science unless one’s objective is of an approved kind.

    “Fases sparitas” perhaps could do with being rendered into English (or left out, as the following words presumably are the rendering. Took me a few doubletakes before I realised it was Spanish.)

  41. David Eddyshaw says:

    Actually Italian (though pluralised in the Castilian manner) judging by some cursory Googling. Is it in fact some accepted term of art I’m just too ignorant to know about? (Such things have happened before…)

  42. I found this sentence naming the kinds of phases of language development: “Im allgemeinen werden die Normen mit Kurzformeln benannt: «Fase rimasta nell’ area piü isolata», «Fase conservata in aree laterali», «Fase conservata nell’area maggiore», «Fase conservata nell’area seriore», «Fase sparita».” All languages begin in the “disappeared phase”, but in Basque it is in the middle (temporally speaking) of our evidence: nothing between the Aquitanian proper names and the Basque written tradition, as if we had only Norse runes and the post-1550 continental Scandinavian languages.

  43. marie-lucie says:

    I was at the conference where Egurtzegi presented his work. Since I knew nothing about the history of Basque, it was rather hard to follow, let alone form an opinion.

    I read Blevins’ Ongan-Austronesian hypothesis when it came out, but was not convinced by her conclusion that the two groups were “sisters”, on the same level, or even that Ongan was older than Austronesian, rather than Ongan being a member of the Austronesian family . After all, if Austronesians were able to travel as far as Madagascar, some of them could have gone to the Andaman islands and settled next to the Andamanese. The opposite scenario – Ongan starting in the Andamans and then giving birth to Austronesian is rather far-fetched. As for her PB-PIE article, the lexical resemblances and the number of phonological simplifications from PIE to PB would seem to support widespread borrowing into PB rather than common origin.

    I just read (perhaps “skimmed” would be more accurate given my lack of Basque) Lakarra’s article, which looks much more professional than Blevins’, but I did not see the paragraph on ‘Macrocomparison’ – where is it?

  44. David Marjanović says:

    It’s 4.2 on page 7, and lumps the usual crackpottery, Greenberg/Ruhlen-style comparison and Bengtson’s serious attempt (which appears to have culminated in this large pdf) without any indication that they’re three separate things.

    ================

    From the comment from 20 January 2005:

    The closest to the basques[both linguistically AND genetically] are the Hunza of Pakistan.

    Linguistically perhaps. Genetically? Nope, genetically the Basques are really hard to distinguish from their neighbors on all sides. They have a bit less Yamnaya ancestry than their northern neighbors and a bit more than their southern neighbors…

    I also wonder what the likelyhood that the basque word for water : Ur is a loneword from sumerian.

    Seeing as that was the name of a city in Sumerian, not the word for “water”, which was a, I can’t distinguish the likelihood from zero.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    David M: Thanks, I guess I was reading too fast to even notice the heading.

    genetically the Basques are really hard to distinguish from their neighbors on all sides

    I read that the Basques have a fairly high percentage of Rh negative blood. My mother, whose parents were from a village in Languedoc, had this blood!

  46. I […] was not convinced by her conclusion that the two groups were “sisters”, on the same level, or even that Ongan was older than Austronesian, rather than Ongan being a member of the Austronesian family

    Surely a distinction without a difference. When the Anatolian languages were discovered to be related to Indo-European as we knew it, some claimed that the former were a sister group to the latter, and called the new root language (Proto-)Indo-Hittite; others claimed that Anatolian had special relationships to this, that, or the other specific IE family. The communis opinio has rejected the name “Indo-Hittite”, but accepted the hypothesis that Anatolian was the first to separate: we have simply moved the name “Indo-European” to the new root of the tree.

    Similarly, if we were to accept that Proto-Ongan is the first (because most deviant) branch from Proto-Austronesian, it wouldn’t matter if we called the new root Proto-Austronesian-Ongan or just shifted the referent of “Proto-Austronesian” up a level. Historically Austronesianists have taken the first option (they did not redefine “Proto-Malayo-Polynesian to encompass the Formosan languages), but it’s all just terminology.

    I agree that it would be surprising if the Austronesian family began in the Andamans, but then the idea that it began in Taiwan is surprising too (and has been questioned), and people have posited a pre-Taiwan mainland origin on little or no evidence (the idea that the landward/seaward directionality reconstructed for PAN “doesn’t work” on islands because every direction is seaward, forsooth!) It has to begin on some island or other, after all (the Malayic and Chamic languages spoken on the mainland are clearly the result of remigration from the islands).

  47. David Marjanović says:

    I read that the Basques have a fairly high percentage of Rh negative blood.

    Oh yes, that’s true! But that’s pretty much all the difference there is, and it’s also found in isolated mountain valleys elsewhere.

    When the Anatolian languages were discovered to be related to Indo-European as we knew it, some claimed that the former were a sister group to the latter, and called the new root language (Proto-)Indo-Hittite; others claimed that Anatolian had special relationships to this, that, or the other specific IE family. The communis opinio has rejected the name “Indo-Hittite”, but accepted the hypothesis that Anatolian was the first to separate: we have simply moved the name “Indo-European” to the new root of the tree.

    But that was never intended. Instead, the average of the second view (worded as “Anatolian can be entirely derived from PIE as previously reconstructed”) won out in the mid-20th century, making the name “Indo-Hittite” a useless synonym of “Indo-European”; the habit of calling Anatolian “IE” became so entrenched that when the first view gradually came back in the late 20th century, the habit stuck, and the name “Indo-Hittite” (which hadn’t been completely forgotten) didn’t catch on anymore. (“Oh, come on, Anatolian can almost entirely be derived from PIE as previously reconstructed, we don’t need to stop calling it IE. Let’s just turn our reconstruction of PIE into a time-averaged mess without thinking about it any further.”)

    the idea that the landward/seaward directionality reconstructed for PAN “doesn’t work” on islands because every direction is seaward, forsooth!

    Seriously? Taiwan is the size of Austria. There are still people in central Sardinia who have never seen the sea.

  48. marie-lucie says:

    the idea that the landward/seaward directionality reconstructed for PAN “doesn’t work” on islands because every direction is seaward, forsooth!

    “Landward” and “seaward” are not necessarily considered from the point of view of very long distances. Similar concepts are used on the other (= American) side of the Pacific Rim, and they are likely to refer to walking up the beach or pushing a boat into the water rather than crossing the entire island.

  49. This raises an unrelated linguistic question for me. In my idiolect, up the beach means a direction parallel to the shore. While a meaning of inland, and hence physically upward from the water line is comprehensible, it is unidiomatic. Moreover, unlike up the hill or up the river, the upward direction on a beach is essentially arbitrary.

    I know this meaning is not unique to me, but is the feeling that up the beach needs to be parallel to the water line a personal idiosyncrasy?

  50. David Marjanović says:

    Like “down the street”? I suppose it’s likely to depend on how flat the beaches (…or streets) are that you’re used to.

  51. marie-lucie says:

    Sorry, I was not aware of the “parallel to water” meaning of up the beach. To me it means “upward perpendicularly to the water line” in the direction of dry land.

  52. Hmm, for me I feel like it could mean either depending on context (i.e. whether you’re coming in from the water or taking a stroll without getting your feet wet).

  53. marie-lucie says:

    Lazar, in any case the problem was whether “seaward” is ambiguous when specifying a direction in the context of islands. It might be when looking at a very large scale map, but not from the point of view of a person walking or handling a small boat.

  54. My wife, who lived in Florida for ten years, says that up the beach does indeed mean ‘along the beach’, but that it is not arbitrary: it means ‘toward the center of the beach and away from the nearer end’, whichever it may be. When the subject is something coming from the water, however, such as waves, whales, or soldiers, up the beach means ‘inland’.

    There are still people in central Sardinia who have never seen the sea.

    “We are fully three thousand miles from the ocean.”

  55. It all goes back to anabasis vs. katabasis. Xenophon’s Anabasis devoted one book to the anabasis, and 6 to the katabasis.

  56. Lars (the original one) says:

    I saw that book in a little bookselling stand on a street corner the other day, mixed in with the popular novels. Of course, since I’m in México right now, it was by Jenofonte.

  57. For the remarkable subtleties of directionals in island languages, see Alex François’s The ins and outs of ‘up’ and ‘down’: Disentangling the nine geocentric space systems of Torres and Banks languages.

  58. At Berkeley I used to joke that the cardinal directions were north, south, uphill(inland) and downhill(bayward). Apparently the Torres and Banks languages really do that. It makes me wonder how they described directions in Ohlone. A few minutes of searching tells me the language of the East Bay was Chochenyo Ohlone, there’s a language reclamation effort going on, but they have very little vocabulary to work with.

  59. And across from Berkeley, “north” and “south” are dictated by El Camino Real / Highway 101, which means they are truly north and south near San Francisco, but more like east and west between Mountain View and Santa Clara.

  60. My hometown in WV (Kenova) faces the Ohio River 15 degrees east of north. The directions are riverward/north, hillward/south, uptown/east, and downtown/west. The mental map of the whole Huntington area has south at the top; I’ve seen bus schedules printed that way.

  61. David Marjanović says:

    printed that way

    Fascinating.

  62. In the town where I lived as a child (in a westerly direction from Warsaw) the railway line ran east to west, and my mental map featured the line as its equator. Then we moved to another place, nearer Warsaw. The railway line took two bends there like the runic letter S, and close to our new home it ran north to south. We lived east of it. Before I grew accustomed to the new frame of reference, I felt it was abnormal for the sun to set where it did, beyond the railway station.

  63. I had a similar problem when my family moved to Santa Barbara forty years ago or so. Everywhere else in California the coast runs N-S, but there it runs W-E, and it took me a while to adjust.

  64. Trond Engen says:

    A friend of mine from university grew up in the town of Molde on the northern shore of the Romsdalsfjord, so when he came to Trondheim, the fjord in the north confused him. He told me this once on a visit to Oslo, saying it was a relief to be in a city with its fjord in the right place.

  65. David Marjanović says:

    In Ancient Egypt the Euphrates was reportedly called “the river that runs in reverse”.

  66. It’s normal for printed maps of NYC to be oriented so that Manhattan’s long axis is vertical; this format is also used for the subway map. Google Maps, with its true north-south orientation, takes some getting used to, because Manhattan is shown as running northeast-southwest.

  67. Lars (the original one) says:

    Trond, somewhere (source lost) I picked up the factoid that along the Norwegian fjords aust may mean ‘away from the sea,’ even though that may locally be straight north or south.

    Also a totally unconfirmed memory that in Faeroese the word ‘over’ has changed to mean ‘behind,’ since when descending a cliff (after raiding birds’ nests) it’s the last = uppermost person who is the most important, responsible for anchor ropes and for not falling and pulling everyone along with them.

  68. Trond Engen says:

    Trond, somewhere (source lost) I picked up the factoid that along the Norwegian fjords aust may mean ‘away from the sea,’ even though that may locally be straight north or south.

    Not that I’m aware of. But there are a few related factoids that I fear I’ve been mentioning to boredom:

    Traditionally, and in the sagas, the main directions along the Norwegian coast (or at least the southernmost part of it) were north and east. You could travel from Vikr (the region around the Oslofjord) and north to Lindesnes (the southern tip).

    Related, I suppose, anything across the mountains from Eastern Norway was nordafjells “north of the mountains”. Somebody from the northwestern side was a nordmann* “Northman”, and, conversely, on the other side, somebody from the southeast was an austmann “Eastman”. These terms were in common use in the mountain regions into the 20th century. There are old paths across the mountains between Oslo and Bergen named Nordmannsslepa and Austmannsslepa.

    Related too, in the Eastern parts, the direction north was always up the valley. In sidevalleys of sidevalleys, north could become south and south become north. A good example is the two farmsteads Repp in the valley of Bøverdalen.

    *) This term became the demonym for Norwegians. It’s common understanding that this happened with the expansion of the Norwegian kingdom into the old Danish realm in Vikr. But locally the old distinction would be maintained for almost a millennium.

  69. Trond Engen says:

    I might add that **aust i fjorden “east/inwards in the fjord” would fit nicely as a western pendant to nord i dalen “north/up in the valley”. But it should have been regooglitable from old texts. The few hits I get are from modern texts and with aust in the cardinal direction sense.

  70. David Marjanović says:

    Hinterstoder (“hind-“, “rear-“) is up the valley from Mitterstoder and Vorderstoder (“front-“).

    (The rest of the name is said to be from a Slavic *studorъ meaning “cold” or “stony ground”. If so, the borrowing would seem to predate the Great Slavic Vowel Shift, just like (Thes)salon(ica) > Solun.)

    (…in which case the *[θ] > [d̥] shift, which is absent from all the older OHG documents, should have begun surprisingly early. Hmmm.)

  71. Trond Engen says:

    Vikr

    Vík f. Sigh.

  72. Not Ohlone, but the related Miwokan languages have a variety of directional systems, documented in a paper by Callaghan, here. Briefly, she concludes that Proto-Miwok and most of its descendents had a directional system aligned with the Sierra Nevada and the Coastal ranges, roughly NW-SE. Bodega Miwok uses a system apparently aligned with the coast.

  73. Lars (the original one) says:

    @Trond, I’m sure it’s the north = up the valley thing I read about many years ago, with memory creep transferring it to the west coast.

  74. One of the fairly subtle things that annoy me in Japan as someone who grew up in Denmark is that maps on street map boards are often oriented so that up on the map is straight ahead from where you’re standing. For me, that would be OK in, say, a shopping mall, but for large areas up has to be north! Then again, I’m also the kind of guy who always has north upwards on my car navigation system, even when I’m driving south.

  75. Trond Engen says:

    For me, that would be OK in, say, a shopping mall

    Not really. But I think I want an orientation parallel to the main directions of the building, especially in something like an airport terminal with a clear longitudinal axis.

    I’m also the kind of guy who always has north upwards on my car navigation system, even when I’m driving south..

    Off course.

  76. maps on street map boards are often oriented so that up on the map is straight ahead from where you’re standing

    Per contra, I think this is an excellent feature. While such maps in the U.S. are usually provided with a helpful “You are here” indicator of some sort, they give no information whatever about your orientation relative to the map. If you are on a street with such a map, you can see from the map that where you want to go is 2½ blocks away, but you have no idea which direction to go in. You end up walking the half-block in one direction or the other, determining which cross street you have reached, and then if necessary walking back three blocks. In NYC, where east-west blocks are 750 ft / 230 m on average, this is an annoying investment of time and shoe leather.

  77. @JC: Well, if the map is oriented with north up (like sane maps are), you just need to get a compass or learn how to read the sun. How hard can it be!? 🙂 Or the “You are here” could be a little arrow like on most GPSs. Problem solved!

    With the Japanese style, sometimes I’ve actually seen a map of the place before, but the map I’m looking at now makes no sense. I have to tilt my head or do a handstand for the map to be useful.

  78. Lars (the original one) says:

    I did a bit of orienteering when I was a teenager, and at the amateur level at least there were two styles: Holding the map with map directions coinciding with true directions, or holding it always with north facing forward and thinking in relative directions. Since what you mostly wanted (once you’d planned your route from one post to the next) was to remember if the next turn was left or right (or if the dry ground was to the left or right of the stand of trees), it was a question of personal preference.

    I don’t know if world class runners tend to one style or the other, however.

  79. I agree with John Cowan. Beijing subways follow important streets but the entrance you come out of might be on an important cross-street. If you have no idea which street you are in you can easily go straight ahead down the wrong street. (I don’t actually remember if there were any maps and what their orientation was, but I do remember being puzzled as to what street I was in.)

  80. David Marjanović says:

    I do remember being puzzled as to what street I was in

    …also, the streets have names, but those names aren’t necessarily written anywhere except on maps. At least that’s what struck me back in 2006.

  81. Whereas Tokyo streets often don’t have names at all (or at least didn’t when I was there, over fifty years ago…).

  82. Major streets in UB are marked. In fact, some major streets are named after prominent cities: Seoul Street, Tokyo Street, and Beijing Street. I understand that the Chinese government footed the cost of sprucing up (maybe actually laying) Beijing Street. Recently I noticed an Ankara Street where I hadn’t noticed one before. I assume the Turkish government coughed up some money for that, too.

  83. names aren’t necessarily written anywhere except on maps

    Actually there are street signs on Beijing Streets and have been as long as I remember, well, at least back to 2006. Even the hutongs are marked. But since streets are quite long, you can go for quite a while before you strike a sign at a major intersection.

  84. David Marjanović says:

    There were street signs, but in some streets I couldn’t find any at all.

    But then, that can be difficult in England, too…

  85. David Marjanović says:

    Lakarra on Vennemann on Basque and “Old European”. Brutal and not swift. The infamous root *is- “water” is treated in footnote 87 on p. 108.

  86. Major streets in UB are marked

    I think you should explain that UB stands for Ulan-Bator, capital of Mongolia.

    Pretty sure that it’s not common knowledge even on this blog.

  87. David Marjanović says:

    Thanks, I was wondering.

  88. I had no difficulty identifying the meaning, but I was able to take into account the fact that Bathrobe has spent time in Mongolia. Not every reader would know that, presumably.

  89. I think you should explain that UB stands for Ulan-Bator, capital of Mongolia.

    Spreading illumination, one blog at a time 🙂

  90. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4d/Turar_Ryskulov-1.jpg

    The man who gave this name to the city.

    Comintern representative in Mongolia Turar Ryskulov thought that he was imposing Communist name (Red Hero) on backward Mongols.

    But for Mongols, Red Hero sounded like another name for the Red Protector (Ulaan Sakhius) – old Mongol god of war turned into Buddhist deity after reconversion of Mongolia in 16th century.

    And so the name stuck.

  91. David Marjanović says:

    Not only is Trask dead, but so is his website. 🙁

  92. Damn, that’s a shame. You’d think somebody would have preserved it.

  93. Larry’s site is preserved as a subset of Buber’s Basque Page.

  94. Whew!

  95. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    One of the things that I’ve found very convenient in Toronto is that north is up (from the lake) and south is down.

    In Marseilles (where I live), however, it is maddening that maps almost never put north at the top. That would be bad enough in itself, but it’s made worse by the fact that although the coast “ought” to run from west to east it actually runs from north to south, and doesn’t make a 90° turn to go in the “right” direction until one is virtually out of the city.

    Anyway, I’m very glad that this thread has been revived after two years. Lots of good stuff here that I need to go through properly.

  96. Holding the map with map directions coinciding with true directions

    This is definitely what I do with any hand-held map, although some people do look at me oddly when they see me holding it upside down, like the shvartzer with the Forverts.

  97. Trond Engen says:

    Orienting the map. I do that if I want to identify mapped iandmarks on the ground or if I want to find my position on the map from landmarks I recognise. It can be fun when enjoying a view and useful when hiking, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it while walking the streets.

    No, that’s not true. I always orient the map if I’m holding it flat to discuss it with somebody. Maybe I do it all the time and just haven’t noticed.

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